I love Game of Thrones, I loathed Legends of Tomorrow. I love Hunger Games and Divergent (although Allegiant really irritated me), hated Maze Runner. The Shannara Chronicles have left me a little confused however, but to be honest, I’m not surprised.
As a child I watched Lord of the Rings (animated version) and Empire Strikes Back at the cinema and the damage was done. The path to geekdom was inevitable. In my search for more “Tolkien” type worlds I discovered Ursula Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, R. A. Salvatore and Terry Brooks. In particular I read the Sword of Shannara Trilogy from Terry Brooks, and somehow that just didn’t click. Later on I read “The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara” trilogy and was very disappointed. So I’m not precious with the books.
The plot for the TV series though is as follows:
The Shannara Chronicles roughly follows the storylines set out in The Elfstones of Shannara, set in the fictional Four Lands. As the series opens, demons start to flee after being banished from this world to a place known as the Forbidding—locked by an ancient tree called the Ellcrys. The series chronicles the journey of Wil, Amberle and Eretria who, with the guidance of the last druid Allanon, must go on a quest to protect the Ellcrys from dying and releasing all the banished demons back into the Four Lands
I had never picked up on as a young child that the “Shannara” world was based on the remnants of Earth. It was only when I read The Journey of the Jerle Shannara that I realised that the books were set in the aftermath of some future catastrophe here. So when I saw the opening credits to the TV Series, saw the USA on a rotating globe, that seemed to be true to Brook’s idea. Love the music by the way.
From there though I’m left in a quandary. The acting is good enough, the sets look the part, but there just seems to be a few things that are breaking the deal for me. These are, and not limited to the following:
- It appears to be Game of Thrones light, aimed at a younger teen audience. I don’t particularly have a problem with this, and it might actually shed light on why I’m struggling to really get on with this series, but the Elves look like they’ve just dropped out of the TV Series 100 or Beverly Hills 90210. They look like they’ve been made to appeal to a certain “demographic”.
- The Elves suck. Supposedly they’re the largest army in the “Four Lands” having conquered everyone else, but really, they keep getting their asses handed to them. In the fifth episode I think it was, an Elf guard was standing in front of a door that seemed to lead into the heart of the king’s palace. One of Elven Princes walks through the door, it creaks, the guard turns around, all good, nothing to see here move along. But then a bunch of Gnomes manage to get in, door doesn’t creak, Elf Guard gets stabbed in the back. Seriously dude, you had one job. One job.
- Gimli the Dwarf is the Elven King. That’s right John Rhys-Davies is the Eventine Elessedil. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a brilliant actor, but it just doesn’t feel or look right to me. If you’re going to pick a cast member from Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit to play an Elven King that isn’t Orlando Bloom, go for Craig Parker or Lee Pace
- The dialogue. Again, it seems as though it’s been written to appeal to a certain demographic and at times there seems to be a clash between the more traditional “Fantasy” approach, and this adaptation. At some points I half expect an Elven Guard to say something like “Aw man, that totally sucks, I’m gonna get me a brewski”. Ok, they won’t actually say that. But then you have the Druid character of Allanon who’s lines and delivery are very much more the type of thing you you’d expect.
- Unexpected everyday things. From out of nowhere in one particular episode, a ”Rover” by the name of Cephelo appears to pull out of his pocket what looks suspiciously like a Zippo lighter so that they can set fire to some gas and destroy a demon. I know Zippo lighters have got a lifetime guarantee, but that’s pretty fucking impressive.
Now it’s not all negative. You see, visually as I said before, it is pretty impressive and the locations are stunning. Just what you’d expect from New Zealand. Manu Bennett as Allanon is something of a revelation, and is superb. Similarly, Austin Butler (playing Wil Ohmsford) and Poppy Drayton (playing Amberle Elessedil) are also pretty good in their respective roles. The CGI looks good for the most part, although there are times where it looks a bit out of place, and set designers and costume makers have done very well indeed.
So it’s not a total disaster, but it’s not a runaway success either. Given some of the positive points I actually want to see this series develop, become more successful, because there is most certainly the potential there for it to do so.